Illustration of correct lip and tongue placement Illustration of correct tongue placement
Click on the arrows below to listen to and practice the exercises for medial "t"
The American English “t” sound in the middle of words has more than one pronunciation, depending on if it occurs before or after the stressed vowel in a word. Also, its pronunciation changes when a short vowel and “n” follow it.
Let’s take a look in more detail about how the “t” sound changes in the middle of a word and practice the different sounds it makes. There are three parts to this section, each with an accompanying audio recording.
Part 1. The medial “t” sounds like /t/ when it comes just before the stressed vowel in a word. The important thing to remember here is that when the "t" is pronounced like /t/, you will be raising your pitch for the stressed vowel that comes directly after it.
Let's look at some examples:
hotel: In the word “hotel”, the “t” comes just before the stressed “eh” sound. This means that my pitch will go up for the "eh" sound, so the "t" sounds like /t/. The word is pronounced like “hoe-TELL.
catastrophe: In the word "catastrophe" there are four syllables: “cat-AS-troph-e”. In this word, the first “t” comes just before the “ae” stressed vowel. This means that my pitch will go up for the "ae" sound, so the "t" sounds like /t/. This word is pronounced like “cut-ASS-truff-ee”.
When you pronounce the "t" like /t/, you will want to make sure that you hear the little puff of air after you say it. This is associated with this unvoiced sound. If you do not make ear that puff of air, others will hear it pronounced like /d/.
Practice the following words. 1. attend 2. attack 3. between 4. pretend 5. attain 6. obtain 7. deter 8. retain 9. eighteen 10. detention
Practice the following sentences. 1. I will attend a conference today. 2. That is an attack dog. 3. Mary likes to pretend she’s a princess. 4. My son is eighteen years old. 5. She would like to obtain her license soon. 6. Please call me between 7 and 8pm. 7. The boy had to stay after school for detention. 8. I hope I attain all of my goals for this year. 9. The large dog will deter trespassers. 10. John needs to retain a lawyer for his court case.
Part 2. The medial “t” changes to a quick “d” sound when it comes after the stressed vowel in a word. When the medial "t" comes after the stressed vowel, your pitch will be going down. Every time you say a "t" sound with your pitch low, it should sound like a quick "d."
Let's look at some examples:
meeting: In the word "meeting", the “t” comes after the stressed vowel “ee”. My pitch goes up for the first syllable "mee" and then down for the second syllable "ting." This word is pronounced like “MEE-ding”, with a quick "d" sound instead of "t".
butter: In the word “butter”, the “t” comes after the stressed vowel “uh.” My pitch goes up for the first syllable "buh" and then down for the second syllable "ter." This word is pronounced like “BUH-der”, with the “t” sound pronounced like a quick "d".
Practice the following words. 1. city 2. data 3. cattle 4. better 5. daughter 6. creator 7. debater 8. visiting 9. collateral 10. collected
Practice the following sentences. 1. New York City is a great place to visit. 2. My daughter enjoys sports. 3. We collected shells at the beach. 4. John is a great debater. 5. I like oceans better than lakes. 6. Did you analyze the data yet? 7. The creator of that game is amazing. 8. I enjoy visiting my daughters. 9. We can use our house as collateral for our loan. 10. How many cattle do you have on your farm?
3. The medial “t” isn’t completely pronounced in the middle of a word when a short vowel and “n” follow it. What happens in this situation is that instead of saying the “t” sound completely, we save a place for where the "t" should go by holding our breath and stopping, creating what we call "marking" the sound. This pause saves a place for the “t”, which we can call “marking.” From there, omit the short vowel and pronounce the “n” sound.
If you consider how to form the "t" sound, we can follow these three steps:
First, hold your breath
Then, place the tip of your tongue up behind your upper front teeth on the ridge
Push air out in a little explosion to say "t"
When you mark the "t" sound, you will only be using the first two steps: holding your breath and putting your tongue tip up behind your upper front teeth. In some cases, you may even just complete the irst step, which is holding your breath.
Practice the following words that follow this rule. cotton kitten button mitten written lightning gotten frightening forgotten bitten
Practice the following sentences. 1. My shirt is made of cotton. 2. Jack lost a button on his coat. 3. I haven’t gotten my check yet. 4. The kitten is so small. 5. Thunderstorms can be frightening. 6. I’ve written five letters today. 7. You haven’t forgotten my birthday, have you? 8. John lost one of his mittens. 9. My daughter was bitten by a spider. 10. Did you see all that lightning?
Listen to the following story and then practice it yourself. In this story you will be focusing on pronouncing the words with medial "t" correctly. About thirteen years ago, a man with a frightening face lived next door to me. He couldn’t have been more than thirty years old, but he was always alone. Pretty much everyone in the neighborhood avoided him like the plague. Between seeing him walking along the street with his head down and attempting to do everything by himself, I started to wonder if there was anyone who cared about him at all.
One day after work, I attempted to go and say “hello” to him as I passed by him in my car. He pretended that he didn’t hear me and just kept on walking. Every day for two weeks I drove by, said “hello” , and waited for a response, but it never came. Then finally, after three weeks, I guess he just got used to seeing me stop and say hello and finally returned my greeting with a shy “hello.” I looked at him and smiled and waved and then pulled into my driveway. From that day forward, the man met me at my driveway as I arrived home from work and greeted me with a smile and a wave. It made me feel fantastic because I had not only made a new friend, but set a good example for everyone in the neighborhood. Pretty soon, my friends and relatives all came to know and like him. It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover.